Southern Baptists to emphasize missions at annual convention

By Galen Holley

By Galen Holley
Daily Journal
TUPELO – Domestic and international missions and a renewed emphasis on the “Great Commission” will be among the major topics of discussion at the 152nd session of the Southern Baptist Convention next week.
The convention, to be held Tuesday and Wednesday in Louisville, Ky., will draw “messengers” from among the 16 million members in more than 42,000 churches nationwide.
This year’s theme is “LoveLoud: Actions Speak Louder Than Words,” and, according to the Rev. Mark Howard, director of missions for the Lee County Baptist Association, participants are expecting to hear a lot of discussion about bolstering the SBC’s already strong emphasis on missions.
Through the North American Missions Board, which focuses on domestic outreach, and the International Missions Board, which has a presence in 153 countries, Southern Baptists have long focused great resources toward taking the message of Christ to the world.
This year SBC president Johnny Hunt is expected to challenge members to do even more.
“The bar is being raised,” said the Rev. Forrest Sheffield, pastor of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, adding that the convention will likely examine the fact that many churches in the U.S. have “plateaued” and their growth could be improved.
According to Howard, there will be discussion of possibly merging the domestic and international missions efforts but Sheffield said a decision on that isn’t likely to come soon and, based on what he knows, he’d likely oppose such a consolidation.
Howard said he and Sheffield will be among approximately 40 messengers attending the convention from the Lee-Itawamba District. He expects that only about 20 percent of the 2,000 churches statewide will send messengers. That’s in keeping with a decline in attendance at the convention over the past 20 years.
“When the hot button issues were being discussed, as part of the Conservative Resurgence, the convention was drawing 40 and 50 thousand members,” said Howard, adding that high costs today are a deterrent, especially among younger pastors, who often choose to use their money for training and education closer to home.

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com